Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What is Tap to Go Back

I'm creating this blog to document and encourage me to solve a problem that is currently the bane of my existence (well, one of many banes, but we'll leave those issues for another blog).

First of, let's lay some ground rules. I don't listen to music. At least, I don't when I drive, exercise, clean house or do any other form of mindless activity. Music is fine for thoughtful activities for me, such as programming because then the music becomes the background and the ideas I'm weaving become the foreground. But when I'm doing something that does not require much thought, I want to use that time to expand my mind, be it by audio book, audio dramatizations or podcast.

That said, no activity is completely mindless. If I need to hit a busy intersection or change machines or someone wants to talk to me, I need to be able to quickly go back and have my player repeat the last 5 or so seconds of dialog I just missed because something more important came up.

In other words, I need a Skip Back function for my portable content players. By this, I mean iPod, iPhone, Droid or what have you. As it is, I don't have a Droid and since Droids can't, as far as I know, play m4a (aac) files, I'm pretty much limited to the i for the time being. And since most of the iPods aren't opened source or allow app development, the iPhone / iPod Touch is it, it seems.

What's that you say? The iPod can be rewound? Yes, it can, but try hitting an iPod Nano rewind button squarely while driving. I mean squarely, because if you miss and hit the center and rewind button at the same time, it will call up the menu and restart the current track no matter how long you hold down the rewind button. And in an hour-long podcast, going back to the beginning when you only wanted to go back 5 seconds is a nightmare upon nightmare!

That's, of course, in addition to the problem faced by even the iPod Classic, with it's man-finger sized buttons. Don't hold that rewind button long enough or get jumped by a distraction or bump on the treadmill or in the road and you're doomed to repeat again and again! And on the iPhone / iPod Touch, your expected to hit this small, non-tactile circle to set you back 30 seconds while keeping your eyes on the road and with at least 1 hand on the equipment to keep from falling. Yikes! It's just not practical! And don't get me started on the obscene tap-tap-hold interface of the new iPod Shuffle!

If I could get the older iPod Shuffle Generation 2 again, I'd be more sanguine. The buttons were large enough, since the rewind was beveled and thus quite nice for playing audio books when the shuffle was turned off. But my little green guy never remembers what played so I'm still doomed to repeat because the computer keeps adding it back, thinking I didn't hear it; or worse, has a tendency to mark things I never heard as listened to and then I never hear them, ever!

This is just not right! Apple needs to get its act together, but since that monolithic behemoth of a company could care less about the little man, it's up to me. And that is my task; this is my goal.

Watch this space.

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